It’s not every day (or even every year!) that your group meets the morning of the first day of their trip to grab a quick coffee on the beach while a volcano gently erupts across the bay! With such a background the idea of learning freediving, meeting the biggest rays in the ocean and holding your breath for a long time seems tame in comparison!
So first and foremost, thank you to our Ocean Travellers who decided to risk the sensationalist media and stay for the trip! And what a trip it was! Our adventure together started with flat seas and a short boat ride from Bali over the swirling channel to Nusa Lembongan. One of the three islands just to the east of Bali, Lembongan is famous for surf breaks with charming names such as Lacerations, Razors and Shipwrecks… so you might wonder why we picked this spot for a freediving trip… the answer of course, is manta rays! The biggest of the three sisters, wild Nusa Penida has small bays that trap plankton on certain tides and winds, offering wonderful surface feeding for our favourite of the rays, as well as shallow reefs with hard working small fish that are happy to clean a needy manta ray and get a meal in the process, so yes - with both cleaning stations and feeding bays these islands make for a very fun destination for a group of freedivers!
Continue reading below...
All images: Annelie Pompe & Peter Marshall
Arriving at our beautiful sunset facing villa, we are welcomed by our kindly smiling chef Vian and the friendly house staff. If there is something the Indonesians have perfected more than anywhere else in the world, it is smiling - the authentic kind of smile that reaches from the heart to the eyes and makes you feel truly welcome. This kind welcoming remained a theme for the whole week with delicious local and fusion meals, fresh juices and refreshing local beer too.
Our mornings start with yoga on the deck under the frangipani trees, each deep breath bringing the sweet smell of this iconic flower, and every so often your mat gets adorned by a falling flower as you deepen the stretch. Lung opening flows with Hanli, deep breathing and meditations with Annelie and the sound of the waves on the beach just behind getting bodies and minds in the right place for entering the water.
Each day alternated deep rope training and manta ray swims, coral reef explorations and the journey from land mammal to sea creature. We had the privilege of collaborating with the Marine Megafauna Foundation’s SE Asia team, and each day we had a manta expert on the boat with us who told us all about these mysterious birds of the sea. From their remarkable gestation period (12 months!) to the size of a newborn manta baby (1.5 meters!) to the amount of litres of water filtered for one manta to eat enough plankton each day (hundreds and hundreds!) While they shared their manta knowledge with us, we helped them practice deeper dives on one breath - a big part of the work they do is getting photos of a manta’s belly to capture the fingerprint like unique scattering of dots and lines and squiggles each manta has on their white tummy. This enters the supersmart Manta Matcher website where scientists (and citizen scientist divers with cameras!) from all over can upload their images and see if this is a known or new manta, their travel patterns, wellbeing and more.
Lazy afternoons around the pool were followed by evening talks - all from PhD student Ellie from MMF sharing her knowledge about manta rays and her studies done in the area, to Annelie’s story of climbing Everest and freediving to over 120m in the same year, and Hanli & Peter sharing the ethos behind I AM WATER and why it is so important to share first hand ocean experiences if we are to see true transformation in our relationship with the natural world.
We’re so happy for this week together exploring the vivid waters around these special islands, the new people we’ve met and the old friends who joined us. Thank you all for your kind support of I AM WATER and we hope to see you again somewhere in the blue.